SDG 13 | climate action
“Time is running out to limit climate change,” say European experts
207 mm in just nine hours or the equivalent of a month of rainfall in a single day. These figures were recorded last July, but they are not from Southeast Asia very used to the torrential rains of the monsoon season. They are numbers collected in central Europe, specifically in Reifferscheid (Germany) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany). “On July 14, 2021, record amounts of rain were observed,” highlights the State of the European Climate published by Copernicus, the European earth monitoring system through satellites.
A fact that could be considered punctual, but that is related to the state of health of the Earth. “It is not just about what happened here, but about the set of extreme phenomena that we are witnessing,” said the former German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at that time.
Climate chaos is beating all records and changing the vocabulary to refer to the data in the newspaper library. “Record”, “historic”, “never seen” or “lowest” are some of the words that sneak into this 2021 report and that is summarized in that “the Old Continent experienced the hottest summer since there are records with 1ºC above the 1991-2020 average”, reflect the Copernicus experts.
Together with them, the torrential rains have now been renamed the Isolated Depression in High Levels (DANA), which was previously a cold drop. Although, climatologists from the Institute of Biometeorology in Florence go further and already speak of “European monsoons”. “We could be forced to add this word to our climate dictionary,” they reflected in the early 2000s.
“Science is telling us that extreme weather events will become more frequent and prolonged with climate change”
ÚRSULA VON DER LEYEN
President of the European Commission
“Science is telling us that extreme weather events will become more frequent and prolonged with climate change,” says the President of the European Commission, Úrsula Von der Leyen. A warning that came “in the first IPCC Report in 1990,” says José Miguel Viñas, Meteored’s meteorologist, and that is now an alert.
More clear is Mauro Facchini, head of Earth Observation in the Directorate General for Defense Industry and Space of the European Commission: “In Europe these extreme weather events already occur.” The last twelve months are the best example: “it was a year of contrasts”, say the Copernicus experts.
Last 2021 registered annual surface temperatures only two tenths above the 1991-2020 average, leaving it out of the 10 warmest years. However, sea temperatures soared to hit records not seen since the early 1990s. “In June and July, sea surface temperatures in parts of the Baltic were more than 5°C above average.”
Added to this was a slow-moving low-pressure system that traveled from these “unusual” warm waters to the cool lands of central Europe. A perfect cocktail that unleashed historic floods in Germany and Belgium “releasing the largest amount of rain in a single day on record,” reveal those responsible for the community study.
In tropical regions, used to these extreme rains, the air that moves from the ocean to the continent is hot and humid. This warm air has a greater capacity to hold moisture, which is why so much water is discharged in a short period of time.
A phenomenon that every autumn usually causes torrential rains in the Spanish Levante. “The rainfall on July 14 in Germany is historic”, rainfall that saturated the Central European soil and did not allow the water to filter from the Meuse and Rhine basins, which overflowed causing more than two hundred deaths and millions of euros in losses.
European river basins. /
Despite political agreements to decarbonize the main world economies and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, CO2 and methane have continued to grow in the last twelve months. “It is necessary to act urgently”, claims Facchini.
“All these data warn us that we are running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5ºC”
Head of Earth Observation at the Directorate General for Defense Industry and Space of the European Commission
A warning in line with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “The next few years will be critical to limit global warming to 1.5ºC from pre-industrial levels.”
These polluting gases reached the Arctic. The great forest fires in subarctic Siberia spread throughout the Arctic region. Fumes from burning vegetation displace greenhouse and health-damaging gases tens of kilometers and caused “the Arctic to record its fourth-highest amount of carbon emissions from wildfires since the beginning of the millennium.”
“All these data warn us that we are running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5ºC”, warns Facchini.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.